Armed Forces of World War II (South America).

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Regional Section: South America.

Countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela.

ARGENTINA, Republic of Argentina, Republica Argentina.

Contemporary National Flag: Not yet available.

Population: 12 762 000 (in 1938). Borders with Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. It has also access to the Atlantic Ocean.

Area: 2 778 400 squared kilometers.

Capital City: Buenos Aires

Overview: Before the war, Argentina was a center of struggle against progressive forces in Latin America; since 1935 it was a member of the Latin American Anti-Comintern Pact, in 1936 it prohibited all Communist activities within its borders, and it increasingly began backing Nazi Germany and its allies. Argentina's financial oligarchy and the leaders of its armed forces held a virtual monopoly on power. After the outbrake of hostilities in 1939, Argentina maintained an Axis-friendly neutrality; during the conference of Latin America's foreign ministers held in Rio de Janeiro (between 15 and 26 January of 1942) it rejected appeals to sever diplomatic ties with the Axis. In June of 1943, a coup d'etat was successfully executed under the leadership of A. Rawson, P. Ramirez, and J. Peron; these leaders took advantage of the pro-fascist mood prevailing in the country to establish a military dictatorship. Under pressure from the U.S., on 26/01/1944 Argentina severed diplomatic links with both Germany and Japan; on 27/03/1945 it formally declared on them war but it never actively participated in the struggle against either of these countries.

Armed Forces: During World War II Argentina fielded the largest and most powerful armed forces in all of the Latin America. Military service was compulsory for all males capable of bearing arms and between the ages from 20 to 45 years old (one year of which was in the active service and 24 years in the reserve). The country's President was the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The army was under the jurisdiction of the Minister of War. In 1938 the army numbered 47 467 personnel, organized into five divisions of the military districts. Aside from these five divisions, there were also two cadre regiments of mountain infantry, three cavalry brigades, and several independent and service detachments. The training was generally modelled on that of the German army. During the course of WWII, six military districts were formed and one additional army division was established; a process of mechanization and motorization was also initiated to improve the army's mobility. The navy was under the jurisdiction of the Minister of the Naval Forces. Argentinian navy (8-th largest in the world during this period) underwent considerable expansion at the time of the Second World War. Its personnel of the naval forces stood at 12 000 (including a 450-strong coastal artillery corps); its equipment included four line vessels (two of them old), two coastal defence armoured ships, three light cruisers, 16 destroyers, and three submarines, with a collective displacement of 107 000 tonnes. The main naval bases were at Puerto Belgrano and La Plata. The air force, prior to 1944, did not constituted a separate branch of the armed forces but instead various units of the air force formed integral parts of either the army or navy. In 1937 the army had 106 airplanes while the navy had 46. In 1939 there were three aviation groups, each group was composed of one fighter and three recon mini-groups (a mini-group was formed from two flights). During the war these flights began to be enlarged / transformed into air regiments. In 1944 the air force was elevated to a status of a separate branch of the armed forces. On the 1-st January of 1945, the Ministry of Aviation was created. The Argentinian armed forces served as a powerful weapon in frequent internal struggles for power (especially in the 1942-1945 period), and participated in numerous reactionary military coups. The armed forces of Argentina did not participated in the war effort.

BOLIVIA, Republic of Bolivia, Republica de Bolivia.

Contemporary National Flag: Not yet available.

Population: 3 350 000 (in 1938), 3 854 000 (in 1947). Borders with Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay.

Area: 1 098 600 squared kilometers.

Capital City: La Paz

Overview: The pre-WWII years in Bolivia were characterized by a very grave political-economical situation that was compounded by a notoriously unstable government (frequent military coups d'etat, possibly at that time the highest frequency of any place in the world), constant dependence on U.S. capital, and active penetration of the German capital which facilitated the proliferation of German influence across the country. Bolivia remained neutral in the early years of WWII. This changed on 26/01/1942, when Bolivia severed diplomatic ties with Germany, Japan, and Italy; on 07/04/1943 it declared war on the Axis. However, Bolivia never participated in any military operations against them. It is a co-founding member of U.N.

Armed Forces: After losing the "Chaco War" with Paraguay in 1938, the Bolivian armed forces were considerably reduced in size. By 1939 the peace time standing army of Bolivia was made up of 12 infantry regiments (each of two battalions), six cavalry regiments (each of four squadrons), three mountain artillery regiments (each of two batteries), a field artillery regiment (also consisting of two batteries), six engineer battalions, and one air corps of two flights equipped with 20 aircraft. There were also small cadre infantry units known as the columnas stationed at the chief towns (each one had 100 to 200 soldiers). Somewhat bigger detachments of frontier guards (of 300 men each) performed security and border guard functions in the country's peripheral regions. Just before the eruption of World War II, the peacetime standing army of Bolivia numbered 15 000 troops. Military service was compulsory for all males capable of bearing arms and in the 19 to 50 years old age group. Active service lasted for a period of two years. The country was divided into eight military districts, every single of these military districts was supposed to raise a single division in case of war. The divisional district headquarters were located in the following cities and towns: La Paz, Oruro, Sucre, Camiri, Puerto Suarez, Riberalta, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. By 1943 the Bolivian army's numerical strength dropped to between 8 000 and 10 000 troops. The army consisted of six infantry regiments, three cavalry regiments, two artillery regiments, and two engineer battalions. The (previously) embryonic air force was elevated to a status of a separate branch of the armed forces (Fuerza Aerea-Air Force); four air force environs were founded; the air force was composed of a few flights by mid-1940's. These flights contained fighter, army co-operation, and light bomber escuadrillas-squadrons (there were nine to 12 planes in each squadron). Most planes were of U.S. origin. The main air fields were located at La Paz, Oruro, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, and Puerto Suarez. By 1944 a Bolivian division of a military district had the following make up: two to three infantry regiments, one cavalry regiment, one artillery regiment, one engineer battalion, one signals company, one medical company. Some divisions, depending on their military district's environment, also contained special railway and/or pontoon detachments. An infantry regiment included two battalions (a battalion consisted of a light machine guns company, a pistol machine guns company, and a rifles and grenades company), as well as one heavy company (equipped with anti-tank guns, mortars, and heavy machine guns). A cavalry regiment had three carabineer squadrons (equipped with carbines, light machine guns, and pistol machine guns) and one heavy squadron (its equipment was same as that of the infantry's heavy company). An artillery regiment was comprised of three batteries (each of four guns - field, mountain, or howitzer in accordance to the district's environmental conditions). The cadre for the Bolivian armed forces was prepared at the Bolivian War School and at the Bolivian Military Academy.

BRAZIL, United States of Brazil, Estados Unidos do Brasil.

Contemporary National Flag: Not yet available.

Population: 44 116 000 (in 1938). Borders with French Guyana, Dutch Guyana, British Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay. It has access to the Atlantic Ocean.

Area: 8 513 800 squared kilometers.

Capital City: Rio de Janeiro

Overview: After the suspension of the constitution from 1891, G. Vargas ruled the country (from 1930 until 1945) in a dictatorial fashion. On 09/03/1939 Brazil and U.S.A. concluded a treaty of mutual cooperation and economic assistance; on 28/01/1942 Brazil severed diplomatic relations with Germany and Italy, and on 22/08/1942 it declared war on both of these countries. On 06/06/1945 it declared war on Japan as well. During the war Brazil received 331.6 millions of U.S. dollars and considerable quantities of military equipment as part of the Lend-Lease loan package, in exchange, it supplied the Allies with some badly needed strategic raw materials simultaneously offering its own military bases for use by the Allies. The growing pro-democracy movement forced Vargas to make several concessions to his dictatorial powers, some of which included the reinstatement of the constitution, political amnesties, and legalization of the Communist Party. Brazil is a co-founding member of the U.N.

Armed Forces: During the war the Brazilian armed forces were re-organized and expanded: the number of infantry divisions was increased to nine, and the number of military districts was also increased to nine (later one more military district was established); the level of military training was improved as well. On 20/01/1941 the Ministry of Aviation came into existence; on 25/10/1941 five air force environs were established; on 15/07/1942 the air force was elevated to a status of a separate branch of the armed forces; the already existing mixed air regiments began to be transformed into specialized combat air wings (U.S.A. supplied 1 100 aircraft).... UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

CHILE, Republic of Chile, Republica de Chile. UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

General Information: UNDER CONSTRUCTION.


Armed Forces: Chile's army was based on a national militia system that emphasized total mobilization of the country's menpower. All citizens capable of bearing arms were required to serve in the armed services in case of a general mobilization. By the war's outbrake, there were three military districts which were obligated to raise a whole division in case of hostilities (in 1940 one more military district was created). The army consisted of three cadre divisions of the military districts (four since 1940) and a cavalry division (each division included three brigades). By early 1940's these five cadre divisions included the following units: 12 regiments and four mountain infantry battalions, six cavalry regiments, four field artillery regiments, one heavy artillery group and six mountain artillery groups, four engineer battalions (pontoons, sappers, and communications), one regiment of railway troops, one regiment of heavy bridge engineers, two mixed detachments, and other units. In 1943 first motorized divisions were established. On full mobilization the strength of the armed forces would reach in excess of 725 000 troops. The air force underwent considerable expansion in 1943, fielding four air brigades of mostly U.S.-manufactured planes. Each military district had an air brigade permanently assigned to it. The navy possessed eight large destroyers, nine submarines, two coastal defence ships, a surveying ship, a submarine depot ship, two oil tankers, and miscellaneous training and auxiliary vessels. It had some 8 000 personnel.

COLOMBIA, Republic of Colombia, Republica de Colombia.

Contemporary National Flag: Not yet available.

Population: 8 702 000 (in 1938), 10 545 000 (in 1947). Borders with Panama, Ecuador, Peru (since 1942), Brazil, and Venezuela. It has also access to the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Area: 1 138 338 squared kilometers.

Capital: Bogota

Overview: In 1938 under pressure from the Conservative Party and the United States, the government of Colombia was taken over by the political Right led by President E. Santos. This move intensified the country's internal conflicts and struggles, while simultaneously it consolidated the position of U.S. monopolies operating in Colombia. During WWII Colombia sided with the Anti-Axis Coalition; in December of 1941 it severed diplomatic ties with Germany, Italy, and Japan, and on 27/11/1943 it declared war on Germany. In 1941 Colombia received from the U.S. a grant of 12 million U.S. dollars; the following year it began to be supplied with equipment as part of the Lend-Lease loans. In 1943 an agreement was concluded with the United States that required Colombia to supply its entire production of caoutchouc to U.S.A. over a period of the next five years. After becoming Colombia's new President in 1942, A. Lopez tried to curb the position of U.S. monopolies and to improve the social conditions of the working masses. A general strike in July of 1944, combined with popular manifestations of the masses under the leadership of the Communist Party of Colombia, frustrated a reactionary attempt undertaken by the Conservative Party (and backed by the U.S.) to overthrow the ruling government. In July of the following year Colombia entered a 16-year period of Liberal Party and Conservative Party coalition government. Colombia is one of the co-founding members of U.N.

Armed Forces: In 1939 the average numerical strength of the army stood at 16 000 troops. It was made up of six mixed brigades (each mixed brigade had three battalions), one cavalry group of three squadrons, one artillery group of three batteries, one engineer battalion, and two services. The army's air force component consisted of one service and one training squadron of 15 aircraft. The police numbered 5 053 officers (by 1944 it increased to 5 500). Colombia nominally had a compulsory military service but it was never fully enforced. Active service lasted for a period of one year. According to a statute dating back to 28/08/1934, the army was supposed to consist of five mixed brigades and several detachments of frontier guards. In 1939 the navy had a total of approximately 1 850 personnel (including naval infantry); it possessed two modern destroyers (both purchased in Portugal), four river gunboats, one seagoing gunboat, three coastguard patrol vessels, and several customs service motor launches. The naval infantry (marines) was made up of a few companies. In the 1930's the air force was only in initial stages of development; in 1935 the very first flight was created but it was only during WWII that shipments of aircraft from the U.S. allowed for a more significant development of the air force, eventually transforming it into a separate branch of the armed forces. Three air force groups were formed in 1943. Despite the declaration of war on the Axis, the Colombian armed forces never participated in the war effort.

ECUADOR, Republic of Ecuador, Republica del Ecuador.

Contemporary National Flag: Not yet available.

Population: 2 466 000 (in 1940), ~ 2 500 000 (in 1945). Borders with Colombia and Peru. It has access to the Pacific Ocean.

Area: 444 900 squared kilometers prior to 1942 (including the Galapagos Islands), 270 700 squared kilometers since 1942.

Capital City: Quito



PARAGUAY, Republic of Paraguay, Republica del Paraguay.

Contemporary National Flag: Not yet available.

Population: ~ 1 000 000 (in 1938), 1 239 000 (in 1947). Borders with Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil.

Area: 406 752 squared kilometers in 1938 (after the victorious "Chaco War").

Capital City: Asuncion

Overview: The "Chaco War", fought between Bolivia and Paraguay for the disputed frontier region of Gran Chaco, drained the menpower and resources of both belligerents. According to a peace treaty signed in Buenos Aires (on 21/07/1938), Paraguay was awarded most of the contested territory. The country was governed by authoritarian and martial regimes. On 15/08/1939 General F.J. Estigarrilia became the country's President; on 07/09/1940 he was succeeded by General H. Moriuigo who held the office until 1948. Paraguay did not formally declare war on the Axis until February of 1945. Paraguay is one of the co-founding members of the U.N.

Armed Forces: The peace treaty signed by Paraguay in Buenos Aires stipulated that the country's peace-time armed forces could not exceed 8 000 personnel; consequently, Paraguay was obligated to maintain the size of its armed forces at around 8 000 troops for the entire duration of the Second World War. During WWII the standing army of Paraguay consisted of four infantry regiments, one cavalry regiment, and two artillery batteries. In order to compensate for these small numbers, a continuous programme of improvements in the army's organizational structure, armaments, and equipment was constantly implemented. All the units and regiments were typical cadre formations; capable of increasing in size severalfold at a moment's notice. In 1938 the air force was created and initially it consisted of only a few combat planes. In 1944 the Paraguayan military river flotilla was reinforced by six patrol cutters purchased from the U.S.A. Prior to that the river flotilla included two Italian-made armoured river gunboats and two ex-merchant river vessels armed with modern guns. The Paraguayan armed forces did not participated in any military operations of WWII.

PERU, Republic of Peru, Republica del Peru.

General Information: UNDER CONSTRUCTION.


Armed Forces: Peru had a compulsory military service, however, the actual conscription was carried-out only on a limited scale. At the beginning of WWII the country was divided into five military districts, each of them maintained its own division. Two additional military districts were formed in 1944. Each military district (usually) fielded two regiments of infantry (each infantry regiment had two battalions, while each of the battalions had a machine gun company), one topographical section, one medical section, one commissariat section, one or two cavalry regiments (two squadrons each), and one regiment of mountain artillery. The army's composition in 1938 was as follows: nine infantry regiments, five artillery regiments, five cavalry regiments, four sapper battalions, one anti-aircraft battalion, and one signalling battalion. The army's personnel officially amounted to 1 343 officers and 10 860 other ranks. By 1940 this increased to over 2 000 officers and over 30 000 other ranks. Peruvian navy had at its disposal the following vessels: two outdated cruisers, two destroyers, four submarines, six river gunboats, one transport ship, one oiler, and eight motor launches. The submarine base was located on San Lorenzo Island (near Callao). The police and gendarmerie collectively had 8 000 personnel by 1939, and 10 000 by 1944 (including civil guards and mounted police). The civil guards fielded 11 cavalry regiments, one infantry regiment of four battalions, one independent battalion, and one machine gun battalion. The air force.... UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

URUGUAY, Eastern Republic of Uruguay, Republica Oriental del Uruguay.

Contemporary National Flag: Not yet available.

Population: 2 123 000 (in 1938), 2 300 000 (in 1947). Borders with Argentina and Brazil. It has access to the Atlantic Ocean.

Area: 186 926 squared kilometers.

Capital City: Montevideo

Overview: During the presidenture of General A. Baldomir, whose cadency lasted from 1938 until 1942, the country experienced a period of bourgeoisie democracy. In the early years of WWII Uruguay maintained neutrality. This changed when, on the basis of the resolutions of the Pan-American Conference in 1942, Uruguay decided to terminate diplomatic relations with the Axis; on 21/02/1945 it formally declared war on both Germany and Japan. Uruguay is one of the co-founding members of U.N.

Armed Forces: At the time of the war's eruption the regular army of Uruguay numbered 9 000 soldiers. The enlistment was on purely voluntary basis. It was composed of four cadre infantry divisions, two cavalry brigades, as well as technical and service sub-units. During the WWII years, the more detailed breakdown of the army was as follows: 19 line battalions, four rifle companies, nine cavalry regiments, three field artillery regiments (each one had three batteries), a fortress artillery company, a machine gun company, one engineer battalion, and one bearer company. The air force did not constituted a separate branch of the armed forces, but instead it formed an integral part of the army; it consisted of three obsoletely equipped flights with a total of 45 planes (in 1937). The Uruguayan navy possessed one small battle ship, a surveying vessel, three fairly modern patrol vessels, two training ships, and a small number of minor/auxiliary ships. The navy's air force component consisted of three flying boats. During the course of the Second World War, the Uruguayan armed forces were partially modernized as a consequence of military shipments from the U.S.A., which were part of the Lend-Lease military loans. The regular police was 5 000-strong, while a mounted police formation called Guardia Republicana (Republican Guard) had 400 members. The fire brigade of 360 firefighters also performed police functions.

VENEZUELA, Republic of Venezuela, Republica de Venezuela. UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

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